When the siren of the first ever Metro train of the city resounded from the tracks of MG Road station on Thursday at 4 pm, hundreds of people were looking up from the queue outside the station. Snaking outwards to both sides of the station, the queue was getting longer with more people joining in every minute.
As the first train was leaving the station, operators waved to the crowd below. There were loud shout outs from the public, even as some voiced their disappointment in not being able to ride the first train.
"I would give anything to get onto Metro today. This was a long-pending dream," says R Narayanaswamy, 59, standing in the queue with his wife. A resident of Kalyan Nagar, he may not use the Metro regularly. "But it’s the thrill of the first ride," he says.
For some it was the hope that Metro will bring much change to their daily lives. S Iqbal Ahmed, a 61-year-old labourer from Banaswadi pitched in – "I hope Metro would start soon all over the city. I only came here to see what it was like."
Ahmed says that there are about 3 lakh labourers only in areas around Banaswadi, and that they have to keep moving to different parts of the city for work. "Our work sites keep changing and we have to travel to far off areas, which takes lot of time," he says.
There were students in the crowd too. Chandrashekhar, 16, a student at St Joseph’s PU, stays in CV Raman Nagar. He says that he may take Metro on days when he cannot board a bus. "Now it takes more than an hour for me to travel to college daily. Maybe I can use Metro for half the journey and then take a bus," he says.
Inside, the station was decorated by balloons and flex boards of ministers. The experience of having courteous staff helping and giving directions seemed new to many. Close to the tracks, the excitement was more obvious.
As our train – the third one to depart from the station – started slowly, some had already drifted to the doors on the side, trying to capture the view from the top with their cameras and only backing off a little when the train was about the reach the next stations.
While some commented on the features – how much noise the train made, how fast it was, others cooed at the view of tall buildings outside, while some tut-tutted at the slums down in Bayappanahalli.
But the mix of people in the train indicated that Metro may be the one transport mode that everyone in the city might use commonly.
The inauguration ceremony in the morning was a restricted affair with general public not allowed to attend. Union Minister for Urban Development Kamal Nath inaugurated the first train. Chief Minister D V Sadananda Gowda, state and union ministers, Bangalore MLAs and MPs, Bangalore Mayor Sharadamma were among those present at the event.
Action was slow at the Manekshaw parade ground while the inauguration happened at MG Road station. A few BJP activists were already celebrating with dollu kunitha performance on the grounds for about an hour. By the time the dignitaries reach the grounds after inauguration the ground was packed to capacity.
In addition to the actual inauguration, each station was ‘inaugurated’ conceptually on stage by dignitaries. After profusely thanking Japan for its financial support, most politicians went on to talk about how they or their own party leaders had made the Metro happen.
However, many in the audience did not seem confused about who had to be credited – while the speeches praising Congress leaders were booed, the loudest cheers were for when Ex Chief Minister Yeddyurappa and Chief Minister Sadananda Gowda were mentioned.
At the inaugural speech, CM said "Metro got delayed as we had to get the best technology." He also announced that Byappanahalli station will have a Bangalore Santhe and rural hub for sale of rural products.
Kamal Nath assured that the Centre will support Metro Phase 2 once it is approved by the state. He added that the HSRL (High Speed Rail Link to BIAL) can be replaced by Metro.⊕